Thursday, May 22, 2008

Mourning the Penis

That’s right – I used one of the “P” words.

Exod 20:12 Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.

I have had a number of conversations recently about folks in transition from one stage of their life into another. I have a son going from Junior High to High School. I have a daughter who is in her final year of High School. I have another daughter who is just starting her career as a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) and about to pursue her nursing degree. My lovely bride is also looking at long term changes to her career as our nest empties.

I am even contemplating at what my career might look like two presidential terms from now; I will be eligible for retirement. That freaks me out to think in those terms. The Florida recount doesn’t seem that long ago. It’s just plain scary thinking about that transition. It sucks to the high heavens. Well sort of.

If we were meant to stay the same, this creation wouldn’t have seasons, cycles, and cyclones. I thank God for August in February and vice verse. I’m thankful that He didn’t create Stepford communities, but instead revealed diversity in His creation long before it was ever a politically correct corporate buzz word or illegitimate employment model. He utilizes it out of love. We do it seeking justice in the name of mercy while extending neither in our trendy ways.

Speaking of trends, I see one at work in the world that is troubling to me. I suspect it has been this way all along, but it is just now affecting me; so now it counts, now it’s important, now it’s time to fix it. The problem is the “perishable” label we have started to put on men of certain hair color and skin type – namely grey and wrinkled.

What a poignant revelation to see that so many in our society have suffered such labeling prejudice for so long, such as the poor, the minority, the gender, or the disabled. We have tagged so many people as rejects because we haven’t felt their pain. Bill Clinton’s famous campaign line is the mantra the church should now adopt.

As my oldest daughter Whitney was going through her CNA training classes, they had to do their “clinicals” at a nursing home. Part of that training was to help feed and bathe the residents. It also included changing adult diapers of both genders. As she relayed these experiences to me I was so proud of her for loving on those people and encouraging them through such a difficult time in their life, and reinforcing their dignity with grace.

Many have families that never come see them at all. The ones that do must be terribly conflicted knowing that their visitors remind the others of the pain their own families inflict. My heart broke thinking about the disposable mentality our society has placed on people. Grab that thought and hang on to it for a while. This is what Donald Miller referred to as seeing others as extras in our own personal play.

Ladies, forgive the gender specific comments here for a moment. This in no way is intended to slight what you all go through as the seasons of your lives change.

As I observe men around me and relate to those close to my age, I see the fear in their eyes that they are being left behind or forgotten. They see the young men steal the hearts of their daughters and take them away. This may be why some men want boys – revenge. They see younger bucks come into the workplace with energy, ideology, and virility. They talk down to them like grumpy old drill sergeants, but are really just boys inside afraid of the coming change. I suddenly want to go throw a football or baseball around. I should have seen this season coming long before I ran into the metabolic brick wall.

When I was in my late thirties the young men at church gave me the nick-name “pappy.” This was a result of me requiring a substitute during a break in a pick-up basketball game at our men’s retreat. We had just run the full court on about a half-dozen times on “fast-breaks,” approximately 3 of which I watched from center court as they went whizzing by.

As I motioned for a sub, the others asked “what’s the matter ‘pappy’ need some oxygen?” to which I responded some period of time later, “And a walker.” I did get revenge at our last men’s retreat by being part of the 3-on-3 championship team. When asked to join them I said, “Ill pass.” That apparently meant something different to them. In fairness to my other two teammates, they could shoot and it was half-court matches.

I also played softball well into my forties and was not bad. Second-base was the last position I played, but when my inside-the-park home runs became doubles, and when my making a play to first base started requiring a “relay” throw, I knew my time on the diamond was up. I moved on to more age appropriate activities like reading, napping and eating ice cream. With a name like Pappy following me around, I wouldn’t want to pull a hammy doing something too strenuous like walking the dog.

So as guys like me get older, we tend to look back at what we thought were more productive times – our “prime” if you will. This is often where we find our identity and tie it directly to our performance in the work place, on the ballfield, or in the bed. We do this because the world does this, but the instruction of scripture is to not be conformed to the pattern of this world.

C.S. Lewis had a nice admonishment for being dismissive of others in his essay Men without Chests. It was in a little different context, but a portion of it certainly applies here: He said, “…And all the time - such is the tragi-comedy of our situation - we continue to clamor for those very qualities we are rendering impossible. You can hardly open a periodical without coming across the statement that what our civilization needs is more 'drive', or dynamism, or self-sacrifice, or 'creativity'.

In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful."

Is it any wonder there is a whole line of pharmaceuticals designed to bring back the function? They know in so doing they restore the soul and lift the spirit (among other things), making one feel fruitful. So the natural or carnal tendency is to sacrifice the valuable on the altar of expedience, or to place value on activity and energy over wisdom.

Let it not be so in the Body of Christ. I’m reminded of the young stud bull who says to the older, “Let’s run down there and have our way with a couple of those heifers!” To which the sage responds, “Let’s walk down there and have our way with ALL of them.” That kind of wisdom is born of experience. That kind of experience is priceless - just ask the heifers.

That may not be as funny as the joke our Creator has played on us all by giving us the energy in our youth to do the stupid things that come to mind, while possessing our wisdom during a season we can no longer physically perform it (unless you are a freak like Old Testament Caleb or George Blanda). Fear not fellas, God ordains destiny and this is His genius on display. His word indicates He is always about trans-generational relationships.

In His infinite wisdom, he has made the two groups codependent on one another. The young ones are taught in scripture to Honor their fathers and mothers which is the first commandment with a promise. The promised-land is found in the wisdom of those who journey before us.
Their successes are worthy to repeat as foundations upon which to build, while their failures serve as bridges across troubled waters.

It is the responsibility of the youngsters to listen to instruction and allow themselves to be mentored. This often manifests much later than we hope, but the one yielding to God, will in the end yield to His word. “Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." (1 Pet 5:5) It is so humbling to get older and sense that time is passing you by.

However, I'm starting to warm to the idea of destiny and legacy, and investing even more in the generation coming up behind us. As they jog by with a pace I cannot match, I turn from sadness to exhortation and encouragement. So let us embrace our role to embrace their time to shine as a city on a hill. Also let us pass the torch to them and fan into flame the passion of their giftings and callings in life. Let us also dispatch with the notion that our calling is any less important than theirs. The one who brings the evangelist to Christ, brings those whom He brings to Christ as well.

Live on. Love on. Journey on.


No comments: